The Tony-winning actor and playwright returns to the Off-Broadway stage April 5 in “Gently Down the Stream” at New York’s Public Theater. Written by Martin Sherman, the three-person play stars Fierstein as Beau, a gay cabaret musician whose tryst with a young lawyer, Rufus (Gabriel Ebert), blooms into a deep and surprisingly complex relationship. The London-based couple’s intergenerational differences, and the presence of another man (Christopher Sears), threaten to fracture their romance at every step. But as months turn into years, the men discover they may just be each other’s soulmates, no matter how idiosyncratic their companionship may be.
In a unique twist, Sherman intercuts the play’s dramatic scenes with a series of monologues in which Fierstein addresses the audience from the lip of the stage, recounting the 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire ― which was the largest attack to target the LGBTQ community before being surpassed by Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre last year ― and the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. According to director Sean Mathias, the choice to punctuate Beau and Rufus’s relationship with references to such sobering moments in queer history was “metaphorically optimistic.”
“As everyone will tell you about history, it’s easy to forget the bad things that happened,” Mathias, who directed Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in “
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